Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Competitive Technical Intelligence: Using Patent Data to Determine Smart City Trends

Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Competitive Technical Intelligence: Using Patent Data to Determine Smart City Trends

Article excerpt


Competitive Technical Intelligence (CTI) is a relatively new method for monitoring external competitors' activities, with technology fields as the main focus. Although there is no specific definition for summarizing the scope of these methods, we can define it as a strategic process of company information needs for planning, collecting, analyzing and distributing data, information and knowledge entities from the external enterprise environment to monitor market activities, where technology is the common factor (Coburn 1999, Porter et al. 2007, Cerny 2016, Zhang et al. 2016).

Our paper is focused on the technology collection and analyzing phases, therefore it is important to define technology information signals as information entities where patent information is a significant part of this functional technology intelligence framework. We can distinguish the following types of information from the external environment (Brenner 2005): social media technology signals; grey literature signals; scientific information signals; joint ventures signals; intellectual property information signals; production signals; market feedback signals.

The aim of this paper is to define a method for uncovering smart city technology trends using competitive technical intelligence processes focused on intellectual property analysis. We have chosen patent information signals as a key part of intellectual property to uncover smart city technology trends with these particular topics: analyses of the key players on the global market, the country where the applicants mostly seek patent protection and the key technologies. One of the reasons for our study is also the lack of knowledge about the potential data analysis and usage of patent entities to get a competitive advantage. This fact has appeared in the study of Černý et al. (2015), which demonstrated that only 8% of Czech companies use patent information for competitive analysis. The structure of this paper corresponds to the above.

The smart city can, without question, be defined as one of the leading technology fields within our society that is presently connected to the Internet of Things (Doucek et al. 2018). Pellicer et al. (2013) differentiated six main fields of smart city initiatives: Smart Economy ( Competitiveness), Smart Governance (Citizen Participation), Smart People (Social and Human Capital), Smart Mobility (Transport and ICT), Smart Environment (Natural Resources), Smart Living (Quality of life). They conducted state-of-the-art searches for trends through patent databases with a simple keyword set consisting of the following terms: intelligent, digital, smart, efficient, city, cities, and urban citizen. The results from 2013 showed that China is the technology leader in this field and that the main innovating activity among all companies was directed towards traffic control systems. Arasteh et al. (2016), and Nassar et al. (2018) added insights into Internet-of-Things smart city applications and through their survey pinpointed the challenges in this field. Sadowski et al. (2017) use ICT company patent profiles to design the blue ocean strategy in the field of Internet-of-Things technology, and in one part of their study also focused on smart cities. They focused on five sectors: aviation and automobile, electronics and electric manufacturing, software and computing, networking equipment and wireless equipment. These examples underline the significance of patent applications as an information source for more than just technology landscape analysis.

For the purpose of this paper, we have defined the following key intelligence questions as a part of the planning phase:

1) Which company is the market leader within the smart city sector? (KIQ1)

2) Which technology group within the smart city sector is the most innovative? (KIQ2)

3) Which technology group within the smart city sector is the most patented, and in which geographic region? …

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